Swimming with an amputation: how to get started

Swimming is a highly inclusive activity for amputees. Anyone who has ever learned to swim can do it. No devices are required and it is possible with virtually all types of disabilities. There are international competitive swimmers who have lost arms and legs and are still able to compete in the sport on the highest level.

Swimming is one of the healthiest sports of all. Why? Few other activities are as good as swimming for the entire body. When swimming, you train your entire body: you engage all muscles groups and joints when swimming. The sport is strength training for both your upper and lower body. It is also good for your heart, lungs and mental health. And it is an excellent sport for amputees!

Swimming with a disability

Since swimming is not strenuous for your body yet lets you develop good core stability, it is the perfect sport for those with a disability. In the water, you notice your amputation to a much lesser degree. The water makes you lightweight, reducing pressure on tendons and joints while allowing you to strengthen your entire body. This is important for amputees. After all, you will benefit from this in everyday life because it enables you to move more easily.

Being active immediately after your amputation

You may have already tried swimming at a rehabilitation centre. Once your residual limb is completely healed, swimming is usually the first sport you can do after your amputation. This lets you immediately start working on your fitness, strength and balance. How do you get into the pool (without a prosthesis)? You also learn this at the rehabilitation centre. As well as how to get out again. This is good to know for when on holiday in the future and taking a dip in the pool. Still a little anxious? Many swimming pools have a lift that helps you get into the pool easily and comfortably. Contact your local swimming pool to inquire about all the possibilities!

Swimming with or without a prosthesis?

Most swimmers swim without a prosthesis. Although it may take some getting used to in the beginning – because your body is less stable in the water – and you still need to find your balance, swimming can easily be done without a prosthesis. Want to swim faster? Special swim prostheses are available. Find out more beforehand by talking to, for example, your doctor, physical therapist or O&P professional about whether a swim prosthesis is suitable for you and whether you are eligible for reimbursement.

Swimming in your region

The Royal Dutch Swimming Federation (abbreviated as KNZB) feels strongly about everyone having the opportunity to be active in water and encourages para swimming throughout the Netherlands. Most rehabilitation centres offer swimming, but not all public swimming pools offer the possibility for private individuals with a disability to swim. In these cases, the KNZB offers a helping hand: regardless of disability, age or place of residence, all swimmers can send an email to para-meezwemmen@knzb.nl and the KNZB will mediate a swimming opportunity for you in your region.

Already have experience swimming? Share it!

For amputees, devices like flippers are becoming increasingly popular. But it can also be a good experience to be active without using any devices whatsoever. Uncomfortable with the idea? Have you already tried swimming? Share your experience. Interested in a different sport, but not sure which one is right for you? Get inspired and read our article on playing sports after an amputation.